The chief executive of one of Macau’s six current gaming licensees says there should not be an increase in the aggregate number of concessions following an anticipated new public tender process linked to the expiry of the current rights in 2022.
Ambrose So Shu Fai (pictured), of SJM Holdings Ltd, told Chinese-language Shimin Daily that it would not be appropriate to increase the number of licences due to the city’s limited land resources.
He was also cited as indicating the current scale of the Macau gaming industry was sufficient to support the financial expenses of the city’s government. Macau gets most of its public revenue from the nearly-40 percent effective tax on casino gross gaming revenue.
The CEO was said to have further stated that if the local authorities wished to diversify the local economy beyond casino play – a stated objective of the semi-autonomous region as well as of China’s central government – then there should not be an expansion in the number of Macau licences.
Mr So was also cited saying the city’s scarce land resources should be kept for economic activity other than casino gaming. Macau is one of the most densely-populated places in the world, and access to the majority of land available for fresh development in Macau is controlled via a public concession system.
Nonetheless Jorge Godinho, a visiting professor at the University of Macau, pointed out in commentary to GGRAsia last year that two plots of Cotai land previously earmarked for development in the city’s new casino district – and known as Lots 7 and 8 – are “still available”.
He suggested the allocation of that land could be handled by the Macau government in an “innovative and creative manner”, by organising a tender specifically for it – for be “open to the existing concessionaires as well as potential new operators from outside” – in order to build “one of the greatest integrated resorts the world has ever seen”.
In the run up to the expiry of the six current gaming licences, various other voices locally have called either for an increase in the number of Macau concessions or for interests aside from the six current concession holders to be represented in the market following the anticipated new public tender for Macau gaming rights when the current six expire in 2022.
The name of junket brand Suncity Group has been mentioned as a possible contender – which a senior executive at Suncity Group has confirmed – although that was prior to the recent adverse publicity discussing Suncity Group in several Chinese state-backed media outlets.
Macau businessman Chan Meng Kam told GGRAsia in August last year that he was “thinking about” bidding for a Macau gaming licence, in the event of a new public tender process.
Mr Chan’s privately-held Golden Dragon Group already runs four Macau casino hotels controlling circa 200 gaming tables under so-called “service agreements”.
SJM Holdings’ Mr So mentioned to local media in June 2018 that the firm would like – even under the current arrangements prior to 2022 – to “contain the number of satellite casinos” which operate using its gaming rights via service agreements. Among the six gaming concessionaires, SJM Holdings has the largest share of such satellite casinos.
In June this year the group CEO admitted there was a possibility an under-construction Cotai resort project being promoted by family members of Stanley Ho Hung Sun, the founder of SJM Holdings, might become a satellite of the casino group.
The venue, Lisboeta, might be completed in 2020, the promoters have stated. It is close to SJM Holdings’ under-construction, HKD39-billion (nearly US$5-billion) Grand Lisboa Palace. Analysts have said the latter property might open only in the second half of next year.
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”Our own consensus is that any newcomers to this [junket] sector should be corporatised, and should be financially sound and able to commit a higher guarantee deposit”
Kwok Chi Chung
President of junket trade body, the Macau Association of Gaming and Entertainment Promoters